Roanoke Revealed

The Donut – what is it Wednesday?

The Donut – what is it Wednesday?

If you ask someone in Roanoke about County or City limits, you’re likely to hear the term donut (or doughnut) pretty quickly. Roanoke City is not in Roanoke County. Instead, it’s surrounded by it.

This takes a bit of getting used to if you hail, well, from most any other place. Even though both share the name Roanoke, the City does not share County rules or resources. Everything from municipal services and police to licensing and taxes are handled by different agencies with sometimes divergent policies.

If you’re a visitor trying to get a lay of the land, that probably won’t matter much. What does is you can head north, south, east or west from points in Roanoke County and still hit the City (or not). Know first, the Google map above is not accurate (those devices aren’t always your friend). See the City map below for a closer representation of boundaries.

Don’t assume if you enter Roanoke County and continue heading in the same direction, you’ll hit the City. If you’re driving on Interstate 81, as an example, you won’t. You’ll need to take Interstate 581 (this starts at 81 and ends in the City of Roanoke – a short stretch for any such designation) as the quickest route from both the north and south.

While it doesn’t look much like a donut to me (more like a Pac-Man enemy ghost with an ulcer), I get the surrounding space with a hole in it analogy. What I didn’t understand for a time was how separately these conjoined municipalities operate. Business organization locations don’t always represent reach either. Often those with city locations and designations have a wider range than their county counterparts.

I’ve called New York home for more years of my life than any other state, where redistricting occurs with the strangest configurations based on what party controls such things in a given year. I must admit, though, I’ve never seen a county or district with a hole in it (maybe a tiny sandbar slice connecting it to another population center in the latter case) prior to coming here.

I imagine there’s some history that justifies this strange geographic and jurisdiction basis, which I may discover in the future and share here. If any readers know (please save me from the secondary research willies), chime in with your brilliant reveal comment. Thanks!

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